We spend a lot of time analysing marketing campaigns on behalf of our clients. It’s our bread and butter with myself having come from the marketing agency world previously.

One thing we’ve been interested in for a while is defining where exactly the ad saturation point is. Gone are the days of pushing one ad excessively, with creative more easily changeable in most advertising formats than before. But with attention spans on the decrease, what is the sweet spot in terms of ad frequency and when do you start to put a consumer off?

We’ve decided to tackle these questions by the following key channels:

  • TV advertising
  • Print advertising
  • Digital advertising

TV Advertising

With the rollout of digital broadcasting, ad slots are much more dynamic and able to be changed regularly. However, that doesn’t stop some advertisers from plugging the same ad again and again. Filming costs for TV slots are still relatively high, meaning that most brands want to get maximum value for their investment by reaching as many eyeballs as possible.

We’ve looked at this in two ways, firstly by conducting market research amongst a panel of regular TV viewers, and secondly by taking an average across the TV campaigns we’ve studied to see where the return on investment tipping point is.

Our research has revealed that anywhere between 2-3 viewings of a TV advert is the sweet spot in terms of driving action, with 4 and over being where the audience start to turn.

Print Advertising

Print advertising is still a lot harder to actually measure as the actual circulation of printed material can near impossible to calculate. Take a free Metro newspaper – one copy can be seen anywhere from 0 to thousands of people (on the tube for instance) depending on whether it is picked up at all, and where it then gets circulated. Therefore, we’ve relied on consumer perception of ads through market research to get a feel for the landscape.

Our consumer panel have revealed that seeing a printed ad 5x or more is where they start to get frustrated with that advert. They felt that 2-3 sightings of an advert would be enough to get them to understand the offering, and potentially convert. With all advertising (but print in particular), the actual view of the advert may be more subliminal as you see it in your peripheral vision whilst reading an article for example, therefore it’s likely that each consumer would see an ad more than 2-3x in total.

Digital Advertising

What has been found with digital advertising, is it depends how in your face an ad slot is as to how the frequency affects performance. For instance, take a full screen takeover ad that blocks all the content – if a user sees that more than once they start turning off from that brand very quickly. Whereas a standard sized MPU that’s fairly unimposing can have a frequency of 8+ before ad saturation is reached.

With Facebook ads the ad frequency is easy to measure in their reporting platform, and our studies show that 5+ viewings of an ad is where performance significantly drops off.


In summary, in most forms of advertising 2-3 viewings of an advert is generally gives the best performance. That’s enough for a user to see the ad, memorise it, and then be reminded and prompted to take action on future viewings. The tolerance level for multiple viewings beyond that depends on the channel and the method of delivery, so please use these numbers as a guide when media planning and optimising campaigns to ensure you don’t waste your budgets!

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